Empowering to Empathize

Many of us face challenges and risks in our lives, however some encounter more than others and the nature of the challenges faced will of course be different.  These challenges can be generally categorized as physical, sensory or mental.

The challenges and risks encountered by children everywhere, and the opportunities children are afforded is the area that the P4 are currently inquiring into. After reflecting on their own personal challenges, it was time to look at some of the challenges faced by children locally. To give the P4 leaners one perspective and delve deeper into our unit, we invited in a guest speaker; Ms. Anita Narayan Iyer, Founder and Managing Trustee, EKansh Trust, Pune. She is working with children who are differently abled. Ms. Iyer is on a mission to spread awareness, getting these children fully accepted and included in society, and sensitizing people to their challenges. 

To provoke the learners into thinking, Ms. Iyer showed a video about a boy called Patrick who did not speak or hear and the number of difficulties he encountered. Later, he was given an opportunity to learn sign language, which in turn empowered him to teach other children and adults in his area. This in turn helped him communicate with others and to be understood.  Ms. Iyer made us aware of how important it was for all of us to learn sign language in order to be able to communicate and include some differently abled children in our day to day lives. This was accompanied by a practical demonstration where P4 learned a few hand gestures, such as good morning, good afternoon, thank you, sorry etc.

To develop more empathy for children with diverse needs, she played tactile games with P4 such as tic tac, rolling a ball with sound, reading a text in Braille, a Rubik’s cube with tactile symbols, all the while the P4 learners had their eyes closed. This made the learners realise how difficult it is for the children who cannot see. 

Every child has a right to many things, we all know that, however the learners were made aware that not all children are able to exercise their rights as there are a lack of opportunities and facilities that are approachable or available to them.  For a child in a wheelchair, to go to a playground, which has no space for maneuvering will be impossible, though they do have a right to play. She told us Ekansh Trust is giving them an opportunity by donating inclusive play equipment to a park where children could play together, and this would help to foster inclusion.  We supported the opening of this initiative by giving Ekansh Trust some provisions for the opening party.

P4 learners had a very enriching experience and a clearer understanding of Ekansh Trust’s vision that beyond disabilities there are infinite possibilities.  Finally, the P4s were given a challenge to be innovative and create a new games that would help the differently abled children to play. 

We would like to thank Ms. Iyer for her time and we appreciate her sharing her knowledge and expertise with us at MIS.

Poornima Karve & Kavita Shivadey